‘Safer Public Spaces’ is just as important in Lakefield: police chief

Traffic stops and enforcement campaigns continue to keep police officers busy in the Village of Lakefield.

Traffic stops and enforcement are the top two areas that members of the Peterborough Police Service working in Lakefield have dealt with this year — mirroring the same trend seen in 2021 and 2022.

“Perhaps not surprisingly, over the three years, it’s consistent. The number one and two things we are involved with is routine traffic stops and traffic enforcements,” said Peterborough Police Services Chief Stuart Betts during a briefing to Selwyn Township council on Tuesday.

Outside of the City of Peterborough, Peterborough Police serve Lakefield in Selwyn Township, and Millbrook in Cavan Monaghan Township.

Of the 460 calls for service responded to by police officers in Lakefield in 2023, 88 involved traffic stops, while 66 were related to traffic enforcement, Betts reported.

That overall number is down from last year — bucking the perception held by some that “things have been busier this year than they have been in the past,” said Betts.

But the Peterborough area is somewhat an “anomaly,” he explained.

“During the COVID years, many police services saw a reduction in the amount of work during those two years when it was really at the height of COVID, and then tailing off into 2022. Peterborough Police Services calls actually went up,” said Betts.

Why? The answer isn’t entirely clear, but signs point to an influx of calls generated from demonstrations related to COVID-19 restrictions, Betts said.

As expected, July and August kept officers in Lakefield the busiest this year, Betts said.

The up-to-date information provided to council — a “snapshot” of where and how police resources are utilized — was compiled as part of a revitalized focus on data collection introduced by Betts.

Betts, who joined Peterborough Police Services at the beginning of the year after assuming top-ranking positions with York Regional Police and the London Police Service, told council members that he’s taken a data-driven approach to policing in Peterborough and the surrounding area, harnessing information-gathering technology and analytics to employ resources in the most effective and efficient way.

By employing this strategy and using traffic and speed-tracking technology, Betts said the police service is moving away from traffic enforcement driven “antecolly,” opting to adopt a more science-supported approach.

“In the past, (we’ve heard) ‘it’s fast here, we better set up radar and do some traffic enforcement.’ The problem with that is, although it’s high visibility, it may not produce the kind of results we’re expecting because the majority of people are already observing the speed limit,” he said.

“So that is something we want to become a little more sophisticated with in how we do our approach.”

But one significant challenge remains: limited resources within the police force, Betts says.

“(We don’t have) the depth of resources that people think we have within the police service, but I think it’s important people realize that,” said Betts. “We’re not flush with resources, but I think we do a pretty darn good job.”

Betts highlighted two new initiatives.

Safer Public Spaces, a zero-tolerance approach to open-air illicit drug use introduced by Betts, has taken effect in Peterborough, but the initiative also applies to Lakefield.

Community First, set to launch in January, is a community-focused response and investigation support team that will see four officers fully dedicated to probing low-level, high-frequency property crimes.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner